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November 11, 2009

Six pack: O-Line paving the way

Middle Tennessee has reeled three straight wins and is bowl eligible for the second time under Rick Stockstill.

The recent success has a lot to do with an offensive line that has been stellar over the last three games.

GoMiddle.com breaks down that and five other game related items for Saturday's game against Louisiana-Lafayette in this week's Six Pack.

OWNING THE TRENCHES: Midd;e Tennessee's offensive line has been credited repeatedly by Stockstill over the course of the current three game winning streak, and rightly so. The Blue Raiders have ignited their running game in the last three weeks, rushing for an average of 284 yards per game against Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International. The Louisiana-Lafayette defense should pose more of a challenge, but the Raiders are much more dynamic on the ground now with the emergence of D.D. Kyles, who has consecutive 100 yard performances. The line is also doing an exceptional job protecting the quarterback. MT has allowed just one sack in the last three games.

WILD SERIES HISTORY: The Blue Raiders and Cajuns are two of the original members of the Sun Belt and have played every year since 1999. The rivalry has been a good one. ULL leads the series 6-4. The winning team has scored more than 40 points in five of the 10 games played. Two games have gone to overtime, with MT taking a 41-38 double overtime win in 2000 and ULL winning 57-51 in a four overtime struggle in 2003. The teams have squared off four times in the month of November, including both of the overtime games in series history. The average point total for the winning team in the November meetings is a whopping 43.5. It's anybody's guess how this week's game will play out, but odds are it will be another memorable chapter in what has been a very entertaining series.

NEW FACES PRODUCING FOR ULL: Last year's Ragin' Cajun team that ended MT's season on a disappointing note featured two of the best offensive threats in the history of the Sun Belt in quarterback Michael Desormeaux and running back Tyrell Fenroy. The man at the controls at quarterback this year is Chris Masson, who has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and has only thrown six interceptions. He isn't the running threat that Desormeaux was, but he has managed the offense fairly well even though the Cajuns rank in the lower half of the league in both scoring offense and total offense. Running back Undrea Sails had been filling Fenroy's spot capably, but he is likely out for the remainder of the year after suffering a leg fracture. That leaves a lot of the running game to Yobes Walker, who has started three games in place of Sails and is averaging close to four yards per carry.

CAN MT GET TO MASSON?: This week's game pits the league's best pass rushing team against the league's best pass protecting team. ULL, with its veteran offensive line, has allowed just four sacks this year. MT's defense has recorded 25 sacks this season. Which side will prevail in the all important battle to get to the quarterback? The Cajuns haven't allowed a sack in their last two games. In five games against conference opponents so far, only two teams have managed to record a sack against ULL. MT has 13 sacks in its last three games and only once this year has it been held without a sack. The key matchup may be MT's Chris McCoy against ULL left tackle Kyle Pirtle. Keep an eye on that one.

DISCIPLINED TEAMS: If you like clean football, this week's game may be just for you. MT and Louisiana-Lafayette rank first and third, respectively, in the Sun Belt in fewest penalties. The Cajuns have been flagged just 49 times all year for an average of less than 50 yards per game. MT has been penalized just 56 times all year for an average of 56 yards per game. Every other team in the league except for Arkansas State has been penalized more than 60 times this season. Three teams (WKU, FIU, Troy) have beel flagged at least 70 times.

ATTENDANCE RECORD WATCH: MT is still working towards potentially setting a new season long attendance record. The current record was set last year when the Raiders averaged 20,227 fans per game, and the opportunity to top that mark is still very real. To set a new record, MT needs to draw an average of nearly 17,000 fans for its final two home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.


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